What Is Sandalwood and Why Does Everyone Love It?
Sandalwood is a type of wood that comes from the santalum album, a tree that grows in tropical regions. It is widely considered to be one of the world’s most valuable woods due to its many uses in traditional medicine. Its rich, distinct and woody aroma also makes it ideal for perfumes, fragrances, soaps and other products infused with essential oils.
History of Sandalwood
Sandalwood itself comes from a small tropical tree that is the traditional source of sandalwood oil. Native to India and Southeast Asia, along with species found in Australia, this aromatic tree stands 10 meters high, with oval evergreen leaves and unscented yellow flowers. However, the velvety and distinct scent, used for fragrance, comes only from the central part of the bark. Sandalwood oil is an anointing oil commonly used in religious rituals. It is believed to have spiritual properties and can bring people closer to the divine.
For thousands of years, sandalwood has also been used as one of the oldest incense materials. Due to its ability to calm the mind and enhances mental focus, it is preferred for meditation and other introspective practices. The wood of the tree was prized for sacred carvings and ritual burning and sometimes used as medicine.
The global demand for sandalwood has grown rapidly and has resulted in a significant depletion of wild sandalwood. Due to its rarity and labor-intensive extraction process, sandalwood oil is one of the most expensive essential oils in the world.
5 Medicinal Benefits of Sandalwood
Sandalwood has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, the folk medicine of India. It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that can be used for treating many ailments. Oil from sandalwood is prized in the field of alternative medicine for its ability to address a variety of conditions ranging from skin conditions to infections such as colds, coughs and asthma.
1. Strengthens Immune System
Sandalwood oil contains two compounds, alpha and beta santalol, that have been linked to many health benefits. Alpha santalol has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, while beta has a similar effect but with stronger anti-allergenic properties. It is believed to help reduce the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, studies have shown that a compound in sandalwood oil may help fight skin cancer. This component can help promote the cell death of cancerous cells.
2. Reduces Scarring and Activates Wound Healing
German researchers found that the scent of sandalwood has a stimulating olfactory effect on skin cell propagation. When those receptors are activated, they appear to promote skin cell growth, speed up wound healing and inhibit undesirable cell growth. Sandalwood powder is traditionally added to rose water to make a paste for wound care and healing.
Other benefits for the skin include reducing wrinkles, calming eczema, evening out skin tones and improving the elasticity of the skin.
3. Decreases and Relieves Stress
Sandalwood oil is known to be an effective treatment for insomnia, anxiety and stress, because it promotes a sense of calm that helps people get a good night’s sleep. The calming properties it contains are linked to the prevention and treatment of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks and phobias. Massage therapists often diffuse sandalwood oil during their treatments due to its sedative effects. Research shows that its aroma reduces wakefulness and increases non-REM sleep.
4. Soothes Inflamed Skin
Sandalwood oil is good for acne-prone skin and other skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Commonly used in cosmetics and skin care products, sandalwood is valued for its moisturizing and nourishing properties. It is a common ingredient in lotions, body oils, lip balms, shampoos and many other beauty products. In addition, sandalwood contains antioxidants that help fight free radicals in the body. These damaging molecules cause tissue damage as well as premature aging.
5. Repairs Damaged Hair
Sandalwood may strengthen weak hair strands by improving elasticity levels within each strand itself. Sandalwood oil has a strong astringent property effective in warding off excess sebum secretion in the scalp. Blended with other essential oils such as lavender, cypress and sesame, it creates a mixture commonly used to address dandruff.
Use of Sandalwood in Aromatherapy
Commonly used in aromatherapy, sandalwood has a unique scent that is both sweet and earthy. Its oil is usually extracted from the wood by steam distillation. Due to its calming effect on both body and mind when inhaled or applied topically, sandalwood is associated with spirituality and rejuvenation.
When sandalwood is burned as incense in your living space or through products infused with sandalwood oil such as candles, its aroma is known to have sedative effects that can help with insomnia, nervous tension, headaches, depression and migraines. You may also use sandalwood essential oil in a relaxing, richly scented bath.
There are many ways to use sandalwood oil in aromatherapy at home. You can:
- Mix a few drops of oil with your everyday lotion
- Heat it in a small kettle of water to scent your home
- Evaporate oil using an essential oil infuser
- Mix a few drops with an ounce of carrier oil like sweet almond oil and apply to your skin
- Light oil-infused candles
Some people may have an allergic reaction if essential oils are applied directly to the skin. Be sure to mix any essential oil with a carrier oil or lotion, and do a test patch before applying larger amounts.
Importance of Quality Sandalwood Essential Oils
With so many synthetic products on the market, it is key to only purchase sandalwood essential oils with high levels of santalol to ensure that you gain the benefits of its aromatherapy. The same quality should be expected with products on the market infused with an essential oil, such as perfumes, colognes, skin care products and candles.
Nomad Noé offers luxurious fragrance oil-infused candles that are free of sulfates and phthalates. Hand-poured in small batches in the United States, our candles use fragrance oils crafted in Grasse, France, and have a long burn time of 60 hours. Get our Muse candle to spread the healing scent of sandalwood in your life.